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Morning tip: 7-point plan for how Wizards can get split in Game 2 vs. Celtics

Morning tip: 7-point plan for how Wizards can get split in Game 2 vs. Celtics

BOSTON — A playoff series truly turns when the home team loses on its own floor, so even if the Boston Celtics win tonight and the Wizards hold serve at home in Games 3 and 4 nothing has really changed.

But a 2-0 lead would put the pressure on the No. 4 seed to be flawless to get back level in the East semifinals. 

So how do the Wizards do it? 

It's simple in theory.

The Celtics aren't anywhere near the most talented team in the league, or even in their own conference despite their No. 1 seed. They play disciplined basketball, however, with an IQ that has to be matched. This is what the Wizards did wrong, and what they'll have to do better.


If they get the split, blowing the 17-point lead in Game 1 Sunday doesn't matter quite as much:

7. Exploit Isaiah Thomas' inability to defend.

If the Celtics continue to try to hide the 5-9 point guard on the 6-8 Otto Porter, run him off curls or run pick-and-roll with him to force the switch onto John Wall and Bradley Beal. The reason is twofold: the Celtics switch everything and getting him on a three-point shooter like Beal is an easier look for him than vs. Avery Bradley who is bigger, stronger, and an All-NBA caliber defender. If Porter runs off curls, Thomas will usually have trouble getting over the screens of bigs and trail the play making him not much of a threat to recover and contest. If the big steps up to help, that opens a path for Porter who is an adept passer to leave it for a layup to his big diving to the basket. That'll force the Celtics to change their coverages or pull Thomas off the floor. Chances are they'll stick with him but regardless of how much he scores he has to be made a liability on every possession possible and he might get himself into foul trouble.

6. Ball pressure at the high and pinch posts.

That's where Al Horford does his best work. He executes dribble handoffs and pitches to the wings and screens to get them in the paint. He sets flare screens for three-point shooters. When they go to high/low action -- see his entry passes to Kelly Olynyk when defended by a smaller defender en route to 10 assists for Horford -- it's an easy feed at the rim. Being more aggressive with Horford doesn't allow him the comfort of surveying his options. 

5. Blow up screens.

Rather than allowing the screens to come and then trying to respond, which often means the guards getting pinned underneath, the Wizards have to not only anticipate, but fight over the top. It not only throws off the timing of the offense but forces the ball farther out of their preferred operational zone. There were opportunites to shoot the gaps on the handoffs but that didn't happen enough.

4. Don't overhelp off three-point shooters.

Even below average long-ballers such as Marcus Smart can't find their mark if you give them room and time to line up a look. Jae Crowder is a good three-point shooter at 40% for the season. But he's not going to shoot 6-for-8 unless he can get the space he was allowed in Game 1. Give up a mid-range two-point shot before an open three-point shot. Even if they make them all, that's 19 fewer points for Boston which would've translated into 104 total points Sunday instead of 123. Lose some small battles to win the war.


3. Don't wait. Dictate.

When the Celtics run double high screens for Thomas, for instance, don't allow him to choose which side he wants to go to with the ball. He's almost always going to choose left, which is his strong hand, drive back the big (while Thomas' man is likely pinned underneath) and pull up for the 5-foot floater. If the big comes up to stop him, he has to be high enough to contest the the pull up. Thomas had too much space. The defense has to force him to go where it wants him to go and make him take the shots they want him to take, not vice versa. Horford can't be allowed to dribble under the three-point line because by the time he hands off, the guard or wing player is in the paint and the defense is officially compromised.

2. Get back to set off misses and don't gamble.

Thomas' first two made three-pointers came off misses in close by Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. The first one was easy because Wall went for a steal in the passing lane, missed and Thomas was wide open. When Kelly Oubre stayed in front and used his 7-2 wingspan to contest Thomas, he missed. Thomas might still get his points but make him take more shots to get them. 

1. Turnovers.

The Wizards only had 13 which isn't that bad, but eight came in the third quarter when the game turned. Five of those came from Wall as he drove into three defenders. Putting Boston in transition and matching up with shooters becomes difficult because ultimately there's a mismatch as defenders are forced to take the closest man. The ball movement almost always finds the right person.  Ten of their third-quarter points came off the giveaways. The Celtics went 6-for-13 on threes in that period alone. 

Even with their roster not at full-strength, the Wizards' best talent is better than Boston's, but the Celtics stayed discipline which allowed them to get back into the game and win. 


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How to watch Pistons at Wizards ‘Predict the Game’ broadcast

How to watch Pistons at Wizards ‘Predict the Game’ broadcast

The Washington Wizards return to Capital One Arena to host the Detroit Pistons on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 2 p.m. 

The Wizards are hoping to not only bounce back after suffering from a tough 140-111 loss in Toronto Friday night but also to snap their losing streak at home. Monday’s game will be the Wizards last home, before hitting the road until they return home on January 30th. 

The Wizards currently lead the series 2-1, the Wizards won both matchups against the Pistons on Nov.4 and Dec. 16. However, most recently the Wizards fell short 132-102 on Dec 26th. Will the Wizards be able to win the season series on Monday?

Take your Wizards experience to the next level and get involved in the action with NBC Sports Washington's newest Predict the Game contest.


What is this broadcast? Predict the Game is an easy-to-enter, free contest that allows fans to predict various game and player performance outcomes through a series of approximately 12-15 questions per quarter that will appear on-screen during the alternate telecast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Predict the Game leaderboards will be displayed at select times, and the winner of each contest will be revealed throughout the game and during NBC Sports Washington’s postgame coverage.

Where can I find it? Contest questions and leaderboards will be displayed on NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder).

Additionally, the broadcast can be streamed on desktopiOS and Android devices. 

The NBC Sports Washington Plus presentation will, for the first time, feature special hosts, who will appear at various times to address Predict the Game participants and provide contest updates, information and results. The enhanced experience will contain the majority of the same video and audio (including announcers) as the primary live-game coverage, which will be available simultaneously on NBC Sports Washington.

How do I win? Fans will earn points for both answering questions (1 point) and correct predictions (1 or 2 points, depending on the question), with the top eligible scorer at the end of each game earning or splitting the $500 prize.

Each quarter will be its own contest, with an entirely new leaderboard starting from scratch, so even if fans miss out on the start of the game there will still be plenty of time to play and win. 

Fans must enter Predict the Game, which is open to join throughout the entire game, and submit their predictions at www.nbcsportswashington.com/predict.


What: Washington Wizards vs. Detroit Pistons

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 2:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Wizards vs. Pistons will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Pistons on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM


1:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

1:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

2:00 PM: Wizards vs. Pistons (LIVE)

4:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

5:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live (LIVE)

5:30 PM: Wizards Talk (LIVE)


January 6: vs Boston (7 p.m.)

January 20: vs Detroit (2 p.m.)

January 26: at Atlanta (6 p.m.)

February 3: vs Golden State (7 p.m.)

February 11: vs Chicago (7 p.m.)

February 21: vs Cleveland (7 p.m.)

February 26: vs Brooklyn (7 p.m.)

March 3: at Sacramento (10 p.m.)

March 10: vs New York (7 p.m.)

March 18: at Brooklyn (7:30 p.m.)

March 15: vs Phoenix (7 p.m.)

April 1: vs New Orleans (7 p.m.)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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Warriors' Stephen Curry could return from injury on March 1 vs Wizards

Warriors' Stephen Curry could return from injury on March 1 vs Wizards

According to The Athletic's Marcus Thompson II, Steph Curry is aiming to return to play on March 1 when the Golden State Warriors host the Washington Wizards.

This game will be second of a four-game West coast swing, starting in Utah and hitting San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland before returning home.

Curry has been sidelined since Oct. 30 with a broken left hand. He had surgery on Nov. 1 and was ruled out at least three months.

If he does indeed return on March 1, he could play in 22 more regular season games this year. There were rumors that he would sit the entire season, but apparently Curry is focused on a return this spring, according to more from Thompson II. 

"I've been making progress," Curry said via NBC Sports Bay Area during the Warriors game vs Orlando on Saturday. "No setbacks which is definitely encouraging to get back to 100% as soon as possible."

The Wizards vs Warriors game will tipoff at 8:30 p.m. EST.